Oil execs defend profits, drink all the beer, leave the place trashed

The nation was treated to an exquisite piece of Kabuki theater yesterday, as Big Oil executives trudged to Congress to justify their record profits at a time when pricey gasoline and the looming threat of sky-high home-heating costs have Americans up in arms. The Republican leadership decided to give the oil chieftains a stern talking-to. But not too stern, mind you: Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who chaired the hearing, refused to have them testify under oath. Despite the deference, the execs didn’t do much to provide anxious senators with political cover. They said any temporary tax or fee on their profits is a bad idea. They don’t particularly feel like voluntarily chipping in to defray heating costs. They want regulations governing refinery construction eased. And, most amusing, they don’t even need all the tax breaks and subsidies Congress insists on lavishing on them. In short, the message was: Leave us alone. Shoo, now. Shoo.